Posts Tagged ‘Beatrix Potter’

“A minnow! A minnow! I’ve got him by the nose!”

March 3, 2014 @ 7:47 pm | Filed under:


Our favorite line from The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. And Sir Isaac Newton (the newt) cracks Rilla up every time.

And in the you-had-me-at-hello department, how’s this for an opening?

When I walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, first thing in the morning, I’m flooded with a sense of hushed excitement. I shouldn’t feel this way. I’ve spent most of my adult life working in bookstores, either as a bookseller or a publisher’s sales rep, and even though I no longer work in the business, as an incurable reader I find myself in a bookstore at least five times a week. Shouldn’t I be blasé about it all by now? In the quiet of such a morning, however, the store’s displays stacked squarely and its shelves tidy and promising, I know that this is no mere shop. When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters, too, the day’s weather and the day’s news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain—books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time.

—from The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, one of your memoir suggestions from the other week, and also mentioned by jep in the comments here.

And a bit of Howards End this morning. I didn’t read much this weekend. How about you?

It’s our first rainy Friday in the longest time

February 28, 2014 @ 3:50 pm | Filed under:

tomkittenSo this morning the littles and I stayed in and read. Mice, more mice, is what Rilla wants these days. Kittens and hedgehogs are an acceptable substitute. Any small creature that wears clothing, really.

So first it was The Story of Miss Moppet—four times! I ask you. They kept begging and begging.

Then The Tale of Tom Kitten, which is crammed with delicious language. All Beatrix Potter is, but this one especially tickles me.

“While they were in difficulties, there was a pit pat, paddle pat! and the three Puddle-ducks came along the hard high road…”


“‘My friends will arrive in a minute, and you are not fit to be seen; I am affronted,’ said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit.”

That petulant “I am affronted” cracks me up every time. Mrs. Tabitha is the Mrs. Bennet of B. Potter characters.

And then finally we got to the necessary mice. Well, mouse, singular. We read about half of The Mouse of Amherst (speaking of delicious language). She didn’t remember it from three years ago, which made it all the more fun. Seven is the perfect age for this loveliest of little books.

I slept too late to get any Howards End in, but did grab a few minutes for …on the Landing. Now that I’ve determined I’m going to buy a copy, I may save the rest for later and turn to one of the other interlibrary loans I have piled up, as time is ticking and they can’t always be renewed. I have The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop and a couple of Gladys Taber’s Stillmeadow books, which were recommended to me in the memoir thread the other week. I also got hold of Helene Hanff’s Elizabeth I biography for children—she admired Elizabeth so, and it seemed a fun choice for a sampling of her children’s nonfiction.

“What a thing it is to have an unruly family!”

February 25, 2014 @ 7:35 pm | Filed under:

Roly-Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter

I’m enjoying these daily booknotes even more than I expected to—it’s the least taxing writing I’ve done in a long time. I’ve said before I like talking about books more while I’m reading them than after I’ve finished, and doing it in these slapdash daily notes is less pressure than a monthly or weekly roundup. Also it makes me realize how much I actually read. Because sometimes weeks will pass without my finished a whole book, I’ve had a sense lately that my reading has dropped way off from where it used to be. But it hasn’t really, not when I’m counting (and why wouldn’t I? why haven’t I?) all the things I read to and with my kids in the course of a given day.


Early morning. Instead of turning to Middlemarch, I found myself sinking contentedly into Howards End instead. Gee, I wonder what put that particular book in my head? I love Forster—his prose at once crisp and dreamy, which is an impossible feat. I don’t know how he manages it. He’s a cipher. And a realist. Anyway, I got as far as the Beethoven concert, the goblins walking quietly over the universe from end to end. Bit wrenching to lay that aside and rise to the imperatives of contact lenses and lost Lego men.


Mid-morning, with the girls. Another small chunk of Wormwood Forest. The buried villages. Where are the poems? There must be reams of poetry about them. Probably in languages I can’t read.

This poem (it’ll be obvious by now that we’re reading through the Poetry 180 selections in order): Ron Koertge’s “Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?” I’m trying not to talk about these too much, not unpack them, just let the girls sit with them. We’re doing so much heavy-duty analysis in our other poetry studies (Shakespeare’s sonnets at the moment), talking technique and all the rest of it. I don’t want to overwork poetry for them, to “tie the poem to a chair with rope /and torture a confession out of it” as Billy Collins describes in the very first poem of the 180 series.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

I hope we haven’t beaten Shakespeare and Marlowe with a hose, but certainly we’ve poked and prodded them, ruffled their hair, measured the size of our hands against theirs. And so to balance it, we read these other poems, one a day, and I try very hard to sit there with my mouth shut.


After lunch: More Howards End Is on the Landing. I wonder if any of you laughed at me yesterday when I said I wasn’t going to make lists of the books she rhapsodizes about. Of course I’m going to make lists. Or else I’m just going buy this book, which I got through interlibrary loan. Of course I’m going to buy this book. I could blog my way through it, reading all the books she’s reading, like Julie and Julia only even more meta. And with less aspic.

I’m having an ongoing conversation with Susan Hill in my head. She shocks me sometimes. She mentions in passing a book “about Australian aborigines, in whom I had then, as now, little interest.” I gave her such a look! How can you not be interested in a group of people? How can you say such a thing, and mean it, and in print!


Early afternoon. Spent a long time poring over our Beatrix Potter treasury with Rilla. I much prefer the small single editions, the original miniature size that is so just right for stories about mice and rabbits. But this big battered old collection is wonderful too, and she wanted to page through it and talk over all the stories, the ones she remembered and the ones she didn’t—it’s been at least a year since it came off the shelf. Halfway through is Roly-Poly Pudding and, well, there’s no paging through that one, you have to stop and read it. The “unruly family” line I quoted above made her laugh so hard. Potter’s genius shines here—who else would enfold a naughty, sooty kitten in dough and have a couple of rats roll him with a rolling pin? I love how full of antiheroes her tales are, too. Practically no one behaves himself.


Will close with another quote from the Susan Hill book. (I found an excellent OCR app that can take a picture of print and turn it into editable text! You can paste it into Evernote or an email, straight from your phone.) Here Hill herself is quoting a 1904 Atlantic Monthly essay by Thomas Wentworth Higginson called “Books Unread”:

The only knowledge that involves no burden lies…in the books that are left unread. I mean, those which remain undisturbed, long and perhaps forever, on a student’s bookshelves; books for which he possibly economized and for which he went without his dinner; books on whose back his eyes have rested a thousand times, tenderly and almost lovingly, until he has perhaps forgotten the very language in which they are written. He has never read them, yet during these years there has never been a day when he would have sold them; they are a part of his youth, in dreams he turns to them…He awakens, and whole shelves of his library are, as it were, like fair maidens who smiled on him in their youth and then passed away. Under different circumstances, who knows but one of them might have been his? As it is, they have grown old apart from him; yet for him they retain their charms.

Recently Read to Rilla

January 19, 2011 @ 4:33 pm | Filed under: ,

I keep posting about what I’m reading to Rilla, but of course I’m reading to my little boys too. Huck’s in board book land; you probably have all the same ones. (He’s also big on the Dr. Seuss ABC and Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.) Wonderboy’s a whole different kid in terms of reading and being read to. That’s a post for another day. He listens in to most everything I read his little sister, but he’s much more interested in mechanics than story. When he chooses a book, it’s usually Seuss or Elephant-and-Piggie or the Pigeon or a Boynton. Which is lucky for us, because all those things are fun to read over and over and over and over and…

Anyway, Rilla’s last week-or-so’s worth of read-alouds, often enjoyed with one brother perched on my lap and the other digging a sharp elbow into my thigh. This list goes backward from the past week or so, because I sent the links over from Diigo. This means some of my notes won’t make much sense.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Rilla’s first time. Today we read “How the Whale Got His Throat” and “How the Camel Got His Hump.” Utterly delicious to get to watch a child hear these for the first time, all over again. (And another Kindle-read.) Wonderboy loves them too, the bumpy jumpy cadences.

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss

She begged for this but got stressed out by the King’s threats and fury, and all through the second half she just wanted me to quickly tell her (not read in detail) what happened. It’s always funny to read Seuss’s prose—as much of it as I was allowed to read, at least.

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter

Oddly, we read this on the Kindle—so no art. Beatrix Potter without the art! It’s almost heretical! But, see, I was reading a book of my own on the Kindle, and Rilla burrowed in and started picking out words she recognized, Scout Finch fashion. I asked if she wanted me to find a story for her, and she was rather gleeful at the prospect of reading one of HER stories on MOMMY’S Kindle. I poked around to find some things in the public domain. Potter turned up right away, and fairy tales, and Mother Goose. I downloaded one of each. What she’s enjoying is having me enlarge the font to its maximum size, and she reads the words she knows, and I read the rest, and she’s doing that echo thing where she says a word before I have a chance to finish it. I absolutely love this stage. She’s right on the brink.

My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells

A frequent request from both Rilla & Wonderboy. Family favorite since Jane was tiny. Rilla’s at the emergent-reader stage where nursery rhymes are hugely satisfying for her, because she can fill in from memory the words she can’t yet read. (And each repetition nudges her closer to reading.)

Chicken Big by Keith Graves

Arrived in a goodie package from my agent. What a fun picture book! The other chickens in the coop don’t quite know what to make of this enormous new chick. Is he an elephant? An umbrella? Goofy and giggle-inducing, and wonderful cartoony art. The cover just kills me.

Good Work, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Rilla’s first time! The word games completely bewilder my more literal Wonderboy, but he enjoys seeing Amelia at work.

Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

Our favorite part is the Shivers story…

Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow

Such a sweet, simple, satisfying story, comfortably formulaic. And ink-lined watercolors tend to be my favorite illustration style—Elsa Beskow is very Carl Larsson.

Butterflies in the Garden by Carol Lerner

Rilla and Wonderboy like this one more to look at than to hear. The illustrations are beautiful—butterflies and caterpillars on their host plants in the garden. A pore-over-and-hunt book.

More books we love here.